Reading in bits and bytes

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CATCHING UP Often techies and NRIs log in to keep themselves up to date on happenings in their neighbourhood
CATCHING UP Often techies and NRIs log in to keep themselves up to date on happenings in their neighbourhood

From English masters to local classics, they're all on the Net. Online reading is catching on and how! reports ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN

Shakespeare would be surprised. Not because people are still reading him almost four centuries after his death, but because someone is reading Othello and Macbeth through a medium he would not fathom.Be it Shakespeare or Neruda, The New York Times or how-to-do books, more and more people are getting hooked to reading them on the Internet. Online reading is catching on and how! Poetry, language dailies, business papers, magazines, children's books - all are being read on the Internet. "I read newspapers and magazines online," says M. Saranya, 25-year-old software professional based in the U.S., who has also read a few novels on the Net. For 25-year-old Saikrishna, a knowledge management professional, reading newspapers online is routine. "From national dailies to financial papers, I read them all."

Plugged in

For those whose jobs keep them away from the country, reading online is the way to be plugged in. "I am drawn towards online reading because of my location," says Saranya. "As I am in the U.S., the Internet is the only affordable source of news from India." So, she surfs the sites of language newspapers and national dailies. The way online editions of newspapers have increased accessibility to local happenings astonishes Saikrishna. "I am surprised when my cousin in the U.S. calls up to enquire about something happening in my neighbourhood that I may be unaware of."The nature of IT jobs, which requires young professionals to spend hours before computers, has also led to the surge in the number of online readers. "I read articles that I can finish quickly, at the most in a hour and a half, mostly during the short breaks," says Anoop Karunakaran, 27, a management professional. "Online reading is good relaxation while at work," is Saranya sees it.Tight working schedules mean most of them do not get the time to flip through newspapers; so online reading is the only way out. "On weekdays, I hardly get the time to read the newspapers," says 23-year-old Kavitha, IT professional. "Reading online helps stay in tune with what's happening." "Another advantage is that the websites of news channels and papers are much more dynamic," points out Saikrishna. "You get to know the latest about what's happening, minus the continuous chatter on television." That does not mean people only surf the websites of news channels. "I have read English novels online. Also, the works of Kalki and Vairamuthu," says Saranya.The popularity of online reading has led to the creation of e-books too, with every wannabe writer creating his own book. Noel Gama, 49, an avid online reader whose laptop stores scores of novels, is already into his first e-book. "An e-book means self-publishing; so I do not have to approach a publisher," explains Gama, an HR personnel. Once he finishes the book, an HR manual of course, he plans to upload it on PDF and offer it on sale. Putting a book online "almost happens free of cost". However, with the unmonitored information explosion on the Internet, the authenticity of the material is often compromised. But, as Saikrishna says: "Initially, it is difficult to gauge the reliability of the information. But once you are familiar with the web world, you realise which domains and communities can be relied upon."Gama says when it comes to e-books, "the stress is often on the content and not on the language."

Not quite the same

But he admits that an e-book does not get the "status" guaranteed for a regular book. According to Anoop, online reading is "forced" and not very "convenient", but it is "more interactive". "Cross reference is easy on the Net. It takes lesser time to read and is cost effective," pitches in Saranya. "It becomes a learning experience as you come across interesting links and looking up a word does not involve physically going through a dictionary," says Anoop.But when it comes to reading novels, he would still prefer the conventional way. A sentiment echoed by Saikrishna. "I still have a soft corner for classics. Though most are available free online, I still prefer to buy them. There is definitely nothing better than the idea of curling up with a book."




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